Racking, Clearing, Backsweetening Timing

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Save the Winos
May 21, 2017
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Columbus OH
Being a newbie, I see a lot of conflicting info on when to clear and backsweeten.

SP folks say to ferment dry in primary, rack to carboy, and then add sorbate, kmeta, backsweeten, and clear. Every other recipe I've seen, you rack to carboy near the end of fermentation, wait 30 days or so, rack again, and then sorbate, kmeta, backsweeten, usually after clearing - which means you have to clear it twice.

So which is it, or does it really depend on the wine? Or the winemaker? Do you wait until it's dry as dust for three days, regardless of how long it's been in the carboy, and sorbate, kmeta, backsweeten, or do you wait a month or two (or a couple rackings)?

I'm just trying to get my timing straight, of my five batches only one has been sweetened so far, and while it was crystal clear BEFORE sweetening, I'm now waiting on it again to clear... so it makes sense to me to do everything before it clears, in a way, so you don't have to clear twice.
The simple answer is "Yes"! :?

For kits I pretty much follow the directions as to racking, clearing, etc. For my fruit and country wines I pretty much follow the procedures/processes of the this Dragon Blood recipe... http://www.winemakingtalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=41825&highlight=danger+dave%27s So basically I do what I first learned to do that was successful in making my first kit, country and juice bucket wine batches. The variations I might try from time to time come from stuff I've learned here.
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Does the taste change when clear, originally?
Will it benefit from the additional time clearing the second time?

I think yes to both.
Make absolutely sure fermentation has stopped before sweetening, sorbate won't stop it or kill it, only prevent it from restarting. If it has cleared its generally going to be complete, and ready, otherwise you'll be restarting fermentation clock over.
Which ever method you choose to do what ever you are doing, the method that takes longest is usually seems to be the recommended choice.
Like most questions in poster, I think the answer depends. If everything is going perfect on my ferment and I want more extraction, I'll be slow to press. If on the other hand fermentation struggled, there's evidence of H2S, I'll rack at 1-1.5 brix.
I plan on making Petite Sirah this year and it is a very tannic grape to work with. Since alcohol is a solvent and is one of the items that helps the color and tannin extraction, I plan on racking much earlier to get a better mouthfeel and a wine that is approachable in a year versus three.
Most folks do it according to personal preferences. There are not hard fast rules.

I didn't see any reference to how long you are aging your wines before bottling. That's the key for the way many people do it.

My preference is:
1) After fermentation finishes I add K-Meta and begin aging 'clock' Normally between 8-10 months time for my wines which are Fruit wines not grape wines.
2) Every 30-45 days I rack it and every other time I do that I add another dose of K-Meta.
3) At the end of the aging, normally about a week before I plan to bottle, I add last dose of K-meta and Potassium Sorbate. I wait a day or two after that and then backsweeten.
4) About a week after backsweetening I bottle.
4b) IF it gets cloudy after backsweetening I wait until it clears to bottle. If that takes a month or two, so be it.

I do this because the Sorbate loses effectiveness over time and is reported to start giving an off taste.

So I don't want to add the Sorbate to a dry wine while it's aging.
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Clear as mud. :b
They say wine making is more an art than science, and this is just one of those things. :)

I have not yet bottled anything, still waiting on blood orange to clear, but it's making progress.

What I take from everyone's comments is that there are quickie wines and there are slow cooked wines, quickies like SP are probably okay to dry, sorbate kmeta and sweeten, then clear, but for nicer ones, like my blueberry, i should take it slow and easy and do a bit of bulk aging and clearing, then the chemicals and subsequent bottling.
Exactly what I did with my blueberry wine. I think the first few batches are the hardest to deal with unless you just naturally are very patient. The key actually is to let it age either in the bottle or in the carboy it does make a huge difference. Just opened the last bottle of my 1st blueberry wine (2 years old now) Awesome.

It was just a 1 gallon batch and it was in fact my first wine batch ever. Fermented dry in 3 1/2 days (12.5% ABV) I aged it 4 months and then bottled. (I was very impatient) But now I wait at least 8 months before bottling. Since the only clearing agents I use are Bentonite and Time. Good thing is that I've never had a problem with blueberry, blackberry or black raspberry wine clearing so I guess I could bottle earlier but I've seen how much difference time can make. Also as long as it's in the carboy aging I can make any adjustment I want along the way.

(I have 31 blueberry bushes (Most under 4 years) and when they get to maturity I expect to be doing a lot of blueberry wine.)
It IS hard, I'm not patient at all! Trying my hardest. :D But they smell so good! I'm hoping my blueberry (which I threw a couple vanilla beans in) will be decent by late May next year, for my birthday. It fermented very fast and very vigorously!

I have one scraggly blueberry bush I planted years ago, it's never grown past my knees. :/ I have an apple tree out front, though, so here's hoping for lots of apples for wine this fall.
If there are any roadside fruit stands around pay them a visit and ask if they have any over-ripe fruit you can buy for a discount. I picked up 36 lbs of peaches for $15.00. After removing stones and very little that had mold, I ended up with 32 lbs of fruit. I saved out 4 lbs and made 4 gallons with 28lbs that is some great wine. Started last August (2016) bottled it 2 months ago and it's fantastic. I even added some sweet cherries to it to darken the color (20 cherries in 4 gallons - I will double that number next time. )

Anyway that's one way to get fruit for wine at a better price AND over-ripe fruit is at it's highest sugar content as well.
This a response I got from Jack Keller when I asked a similar Q. After fermenting dry, I use clearing agent - Sparkaloid or dual stage. Wait until clear. Then...........

The sequence is as follows. (1) Stabilize (Campden [or better yet, potassium metabisulfite] and potassium sorbate). (2) Wait. I wait a month, but others argue 3 weeks is long enough. The reason is the sorbate renders the surviving yeast incapable of budding (propagating), so they eventually die of old age. Give them time to die off. (3) Sweeten to taste, adding a little at a time well dissolved (simple syrup is ideal) until it tastes how you want it. Beware, because as it ages it will taste sweeter yet, so it is wise to sweeten until almost where you want it. (4) Wait. Some yeast will not have died of old age. Waiting 3-4 weeks allows time to see if they are numerous enough to continue fermentation. If they do exhibit fermentation, you have to wait it out before bottling. (5) Bulk age or bottle. (6) Wait. Newly bottled wine takes time to "settle." Bottling agitates it and it tends to go flat (bottle shock) for a while (1-3 months). Even when ready to drink, if you allow it to age another 3-6 months you allow it time to develop esters (bouquet), which adds to its complexity and richness. This waiting might be frustrating, but if you start several wines at different times eventually there will always be wine ready (or almost ready) for bottling and other wines ready (or close enough) for drinking. If you start off accepting that the wine you are making won't be ready to drink for 9-12 months (for some, even longer), you won't be in such a hurry.

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